Little Visits: Charming Sittellas

Mentioned a trip a few weeks ago to the You Yangs.
One of the highlights of the morning was an encounter with a family group of Varied Sittella.

These charming little birds are not always so easy to find, and because of their hyper-active approach to feeding, are always on the move.  It might be I guess that they have to search through all the bits of loose bark on a branch looking for a tid-bit, and with so many birds all at work at the same time, its really the quickest down the branches.  Sittellas have an unique approach to feeding, starting at the top of the tree and then working their way down.  Treecreepers on the other hand, usually start lower down and work upwards.

What was interesting is that this family had several young, recently fledged with the party.  The young ones preferred to sit together and preen, while the adults did all the work.
They moved so quickly that we lost them for a short time, and while we went right, they apparently had gone left.
Big Rock is just what it says, a very big rock.  There is a track around the base, and its about 20 minute stroll.   The birds were working primarily in Black wattle that grows up along the base of rock. When the rains come, good water flows from the rock, but at other times, the area is particularly dry  so much of the wattle never grows to maturity.  Which suits the insects that the Sittellas feed. So it works all round.

Enjoy.

Typical pose, going down the branches
Every nook and cranny gets a good going over
No doubt a favourite game. Looping a branch
Some of the young ones that were happy to sit together and preen
Its always impressive to see the underwing colours on these birds

Gottcha!
Hard to see the rich colours on the wings while they are folded, but impressive in flight

Saturday Evening Post #65 : The Gift of our Very Personal Now.

Simple one tonight.
Mostly because I couldn’t have said it better.

Here is a quote from “The Online Photographer”, A Postcard from Peter

“The gift of seeing, feeling, and the joy of response!

“We live in a world full of immense challenges—often personal and maybe more often, generalized challenges to the spirit presented by the major forces at play all around us—politics, economics, ideology, attitudes, and environmental realities. In the midst of all of this—among the daily blessings and joys that offer so much amazing life in the present moment—is the opportunity to go out, and use one’s eyes, heart, movement, and presence to not only see, but to feel, and respond by registering with a camera, our very personal now. For many of us, it is not only photography, but more importantly, this opportunity to exist and live in the present among all that life can offer daily, that is an essential nourishment for the soul. And, it all starts by simply being out, present, and alive, by seeing and feeling. This opportunity is such a blessing for us all.”

—Peter Turnley

Original contents copyright 2020 by Peter Turnley. All Rights Reserved.

Mike at Online Photographer also features a photo by Peter. But courtesy means I won’t republish it here, without permission.

Peter Turnley is a photojournalist and has had many magazine covers over his career.

I have often pondered in quieter moments, that if I’d have not taken a turn to commercial photography, that PJ would have been my pursuit.
So to that end, much of my current bird photography is not about exotic, or more species, but simply to record the goings on of the lives on birds that I come in contact with.

Its my own gift of the Very Personal Now.

Enjoy.

 

Moments: Hiring a “Tradie”

EE spent much of November and December working with a Black-shouldered Kite pair that were raising two new, fine looking, young.

By the end of the year, the pair had given the young ones their marching orders and apart from a week or so of occasional visits the young now seem to have taken the hint and moved away.  Interesting to see, mostly the male, fly round them and keep them away from the resting female. Try as they might to slip past him, his diligence and vigilance, and fly skills meant it was all a bit in vain.

So, we thought. That will mean the adults will move on soon, as this area hasn’t traditionally had a ‘resident’ (not that Black-shouldered Kites are resident), pair.

So we thought.

On the way through the forest in the morning, and we were surprised to hear the pair contact calls.  She with a harsh “SCRaaaCH”, and he with a plaintive ‘Pee, pee”.

And there they were both sitting together on the edge of a clearing.   Ok. Time to get some pictures before they leave.

So we thought.

Surprisingly, after just a short break—less than a month—  they are back in business with a new nest site.
So while she sat and occasionally gave encouragements, he took on the role of a ‘tradie’. Lifting and bumping branches, twigs and long sticks. Then rearranging them into the chosen treetop.

While all this anecdotal, and is for this pair only, its been interesting to watch the progress.

Each stick is very carefully selected, and cut, or broken from a surrounding tree. He spends many minutes in the selected tree, and then either nips off the short small twigs or flys at them and pulls them off, or failing that flys at them full tilt and carries off the main branch by force.  Doesn’t always work, as occasionally a stick just doesn’t want to break away. 🙂

Then back to nest, much ‘pee, pee’ing as he approaches, and parachutes down into the treetop.  Then there is quite a bit of activity as he carefully threads it into the right place and satisfied, he usually spends a few minutes (say about 10!), sitting in the nest, and working out perhaps, what is needed next.

Then its off to “Bunnings” for the next load of building supplies.

In the hour or so he made about 6 visits, and she remained on her branch a long way back from the activity, and occasionally added her thoughts to the procedure.

What is interesting of course is that they have settled in for a second nesting. Perhaps the food in the area is likely to improve.

Time will tell as to their success.
In the meantime, here’s the Tradie.

She was quite happy to preen and watch proceedings from afar.

Stepping out of the nest to continue the work.

Off to Bunnings for another visit. Perhaps he likes the sausage sizzle on Tuesdays.

The early morning smokey light has given him a richer colour, and at first I thought it must have been one of the young birds in their ginger dress.

 

 

 

Little Visits: You Yangs on Sunday

One of the first times EE and I have been out just looking about.
We had been hoping to find some Eastern Yellow Robins, and or some evidences of the Scarlet Robins at the You Yangs, and EE also wanted to visit her water feature near the Big Rock carpark.

In the end, the big surprise was a family of Sittella,  and their young recently fledged clan. I’m going to do a separate blog on that encounter.

In the meantime in spite of all the disaster that is around, and the challenges of the rest of summer ahead of us, it was good to see the birds had new life on the way.

Silvereye at the Water Feature
Young Australian Magpie engaged in some serious preening, while reminding the parents of its presence.
One of several juvenile Grey Shrike Thrush working in the area
A Yellow-faced Honeyeater waits, nervously and politely for its turn at the water.
Varied Sittella, circling the branch
Two young Varied Sittella preening and resting while the family feed nearby
A young Scarlet Robin, one of the first we’ve seen in many months. Presumably its a male beginning to moult in.
Spotty the Pardalote. This is the male that I showed feeding his young on my Flickr steam.
Well not every shot is a winner, but I rather liked the colour set of the Sittella wings

Saturday Evening Post #64: A Special Conjunction

Art is the demonstration that the Ordinary is Extra-ordinary—A. Ozenfant

Been away for the past week(end) up at the family acres.  EE’s sister’s Wedding to be precise. Right on the edge of the fire zone in the north of the state.  How close, well, the reception was held in the local Fire Refuge Shelter-the hall was booked before the current crisis. At other times, it’s the local football club building. Go Tigers!

Had the chance to relive some of my early history, as I was called on to ‘do the wedding photos’.  Talk about dragging an old warhorse out for another canter round the circuit.

So armed with the trusty D810, and  brace of SB-600 flashunits, I did, indeed, set off. Add a good short zoom, 24-70 would have been the choice, and I’ve got inside groups and closeup intimate portraits covered.

And as it all came flooding back, like learning to ride a bike, I recalled why I really like to use strobe flash.  A touch here, a shadow fill there, a rosco gel on that one, change up the white-balance, bounce it, fill it, wind down the power for a rich backdrop, and so on, and on.
I also recalled why we went down the Nikon path back when we went digital full time:—Their superior (at the time) flash control. Joy to use and control the power and balance, without lots of cables, and light control gizmos.

Reminded me of a quote from Tom Ang, is his photography book.  “The joy and delight photographers take in their experience of light. It may, then, be a sharing of the experience of life itself. It is our good fortune as photographers to have a particular awareness of light’s harmony with life. For the special conjunction of a certain quality of light with the stream of life creates a ‘significance of meaning‘ that we turn into a photograph. Light always leads the way.
The wise photographer learns to be taken up by light—not to contemplate it too deeply.”

Working on the Magnificent Magpie project, I was suddenly aware that while I was walking around Maggie checking out the angle, the light the backdrop, the point of view, Maggie was evaluating me too. What a great two way communication.

I ended up sitting on the grass while Maggie hunted across a large lawn lit by streams of light against dark shadows.

And then Maggie stepped out of the shade, into the light, and the conjunction happened.

Just like working with strobes and getting harmony and balance through the electronic flash, Maggie worked with the available moment, and all I had to do was play my part.
Press the shutter button.

Tom Ang again, “The Tao of effective lighting is to let the subject and the light work it out for themselves. Letting be: that is how to be effective without working.”

Saturday Evening Post #63 : Big Annoucement—The Magnificent Magpie project 2020

I’ve spent part of the holiday time reading, or studying, a book called “Australian Magpie”, by Gisela Kapplan (see here)

One of the things that struck me was from her detailed observations, how often I’ve seen the same or similar behaviour, yet how little of it I have actually photographed.  And I put it down to, “Oh, they are just Magpies”, while I was looking for that ‘elusive’ new species I needed to locate. 🙂
I think I wrote about that last week.

I’ve just finished a project with another group and wondered what I might contribute in 2020.
Which is why I’ve decided to spend the year collecting as many Magpie Pictures as I can.

So welcome to the announcement of the beginning of “The Magnificent Magpie project 2020”.  Magnificent being the Magpie not the project, just so we’re all clear on that.

Rather than fill pages and pages of WordPress blog, I’m going to make it mostly a visual journey.
To do that, the photos will appear on a SMUGMUG folio.

Yes, I know all the flickr folk shudder at Smugmug, but they do make it very easy to create photo galleries and link the work in various threads.
And yes, I did spend a buck or two for the page, (50% off for Flickr pro members—no, its not a paid sales incentive remark, just explaining).

And I figured if I put some funds up front, I’d be more likely to consider it of value and the project might have continuity for the year.

Here is a link. https://birdsaspoetry.smugmug.com

My plan is to take photos of habitat, behaviour, activities, interaction, and other character qualities making each a gallery that is added to on a somewhat ad hoc basis as I come across Magpies in their day to day lives.
One good thing, is they are hardly rare, so I’m probably not going to get stuck for subjects.

Those that follow will see the galleries expand as move along with the project.

There are places to comment, and there are at the moment several other galleries in place with other images, as I began to figure out how it all worked. Hope you enjoy the way SmugMug shows of the images.  There is a full page quad arrow for a bigger size.

I might also expand it for Local Birds, in my neighbourhood, and then birds from various locations that we visit. Like “the office”

Feeling good about a project that is not only interesting, but achievable.

Hope to see you over at SmugMug some time.  I’ll put the occasional update page here just to keep it linked.
Yes, Birdsaspoety.com will continue, this is just a parallel work.

I can hear magpies calling as I write. 🙂